Dwindling Phone Numbers Sparks Need for New Area Code in No.
Bell Atlantic suggests overlay code to avoid splitting
November 13, 1996
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Northern Virginia faces a dwindling
telephone numbers which will prompt the introduction of a fifth area
code in the state in 1999. The announcement came today following a
day-long meeting in Arlington of officials from various segments of
the telecommunications industry.
"Our reserve of telephone numbers in the 703 area code is
at an astonishing rate," said HREF="http://www.ba.com/homes/stallard.html">Hugh Stallard, president
and CEO of Bell
Atlantic-Virginia. The 703 code, which at one time served the entire
state, is now assigned only to telephone customers in Northern
The shortage is triggered by the explosive popularity of cellular
telephones, multiple residential telephone lines, pagers, fax machines
and modems. Further demand for numbers is coming from new companies
seeking to provide local phone service in Northern Virginia.
"At the current pace of growth, we will run out of numbers late in
1999," Stallard said.
The '703' area includes the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls
Church, and the counties Arlington, Fairfax, Prince William and
eastern Loudoun County (including Leesburg).
Of the 761 exchange codes (first three digits of a phone number)
available for assignment in the 703 area, only 313 remain. An
exchange code can contain as many as 10,000 telephone numbers.
Creation of a new area code would, in effect, free up over seven
million new telephone numbers. Stallard said he will ask the Virginia
State Corporation Commission to consider a new type of
code for Northern Virginia, one that would not divide the community
geographically. Maryland introduced two new overlay area codes
earlier this year.
The new overlay area code would follow the same existing boundaries of
the 703 code. When all phone numbers in the 703 area are used up,
additional phone numbers in the same area would be given the new area
"We won't have to chop up Fairfax County. Arlington and Alexandria
won't be split from Fairfax," Stallard said. He added that the
overlay area code would allow all current customers to keep their
phone numbers. However, the overlay approach would require a change
in the way local calls are dialed. Once it's introduced, all callers
would need to dial the full 10-digit telephone number for a local
call. Customers in Northern Virginia already dial 10 digits to call
locally into the District of Columbia or suburban Maryland.
If the overlay approach is accepted, Bell Atlantic will allow 10-digit
local dialing beginning next summer. Customers would still be able to
make local calls with seven digits during a one-year grace period.
The new area code would not be assigned until all exchange codes are
used in the '703' area.
The overlay will have no effect on customer rates. "What is a local
call today will be a local tomorrow," Stallard said.
The alternative to the overlay approach is called a "geographic
split." Stallard said a split would make no sense in a densely
populated area like Northern Virginia. "Communities would be
and hundreds of thousands of people would be forced to change their
phone numbers," he said.
Businesses in a new area code created by a split would have to change
their stationery and business cards, promotional material and signs on
company vehicles. Businesses and other customers throughout the old
and new area codes would incur expenses to reprogram equipment, such
as cellular phones and burglar alarms.
Further, while businesses assigned to the new area code would bear the
hardship of changing their telephone numbers, their competitors
remaining in the current area code would not.
"After studying all the issues, we believe the overlay is the most
practical and the least disruptive approach to meeting the growing need
for phone numbers. Clearly, it's in the best interests of all of our
customers," Stallard said.
The number of the new area code for Northern Virginia has not yet been
selected. It will become the fifth area code in the Old Dominion, and
the third new code for the state in the last two years.
The '540' area code, which serves primarily the western part of the
state, was spun off from '703' a year ago. Last July the '757' area
code was introduced in the '804' area to serve Hampton Roads. Both
times, the new area codes were created with geographic splits, forcing
many customers to change their phone numbers.
Bell Atlantic Corporation (NYSE:
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communications, entertainment and information industry. In the
mid-Atlantic region, the company is the premier provider of local
telecommunications and advanced services. Globally, it is one of the
largest investors in the high-growth wireless communication
marketplace. Bell Atlantic also owns a substantial interest in
Telecom Corporation of New Zealand and is actively developing
high-growth national and international business opportunities in all
phases of the industry.